How To Become a Wedding Photographer in 8 Steps (Plus Tips)
Updated March 8, 2023
Wedding photographers are essential for memorializing the celebration of a couple's union. They take pictures of a wedding's ceremony, reception, venue and guests. Understanding the role of a wedding photographer can help you decide if this career path is right for you.
In this article, we further explain what a wedding photographer does, outline how to become one and discuss the salary, job outlook and skills for this creative career.
What is a wedding photographer?
A wedding photographer takes pictures at weddings to document the celebration through candid photos and formal pictures. They capture images of memorable details throughout the entire wedding day, such as the moment when partners first see each other or exchange vows and rings during the ceremony. They're responsible for meeting with the engaged couple to plan their photographic strategy before the wedding. Wedding photographers may also be responsible for coordinating photo sessions and group photos with the wedding party.
Related: 32 Careers in Photography
What does a wedding photographer do?
A wedding photographer takes pictures during pre-ceremony preparations, the wedding ceremony and the reception. They also take formal portraits of the married couple, their family members and the wedding party. These photographers also edit wedding pictures to fix any lighting errors and make requested changes.
Some other duties of a wedding photographer often include:
Marketing their services to attract clients
Negotiating photography fees
Drafting contracts with clients
Traveling to various wedding locations
Maintaining and repairing photography equipment
Providing backgrounds and props for photo shoots
Selecting the appropriate photography equipment for an event
Preparing albums, files and prints for their clients
How to become a wedding photographer
Here's a list of seven steps that you can follow when pursuing a career as a wedding photographer:
1. Learn about photography
Begin by learning about photography. Read blog articles from other wedding photographers and attend workshops held by local photographers, and consider taking an online course in photography to help you build your skill set. Be sure to familiarize yourself with different technologies, such as various camera lenses and editing software.
2. Network with other photographers
Try communicating with people in the wedding photography industry. Consider using social media or in-person networking events to develop these relationships. For example, you might ask other wedding photographers about the equipment they use or the strategies they rely on to find clients. This can help you find a mentor or gain valuable insight into pursuing a career as a wedding photographer.
3. Become an assistant photographer
Start working as an assistant photographer for engagement and wedding photo shoots. This allows you to gain practical experience and learn from other wedding photographers. Look for opportunities by contacting photographers in your area or your network to ask if you can work as their assistant.
4. Invest in photography equipment
After some time working as an assistant photographer, you may start investing in your own photography equipment. This can help you when you become an independent wedding photographer. First, research the basic equipment you might use as a photographer, such as cameras, lenses and tripods. Then, read the instructions for your equipment so you know how to use it.
5. Practice your photography skills
Practice your photography skills by taking pictures of your friends and family members. You may even contact friends or acquaintances who are engaged. This can help you develop your client base and practice your photography in situations where you feel comfortable. Editing these photographs may also help you improve your skills working with editing software and trying post-production techniques.
6. Create a portfolio
Develop a portfolio that showcases your best work and reflects your skill level, photography techniques and style. Consider including pictures from your practice photo shoots with friends and family members. You may update your portfolio as you continue working and taking high-quality pictures.
7. Advertise your services
Once you feel comfortable with your skills, you may begin advertising your photography services. For example, consider starting a website highlighting your portfolio and listing your prices. You may also create social media profiles to promote your wedding photography services.
8. Build a client base
Use your marketing materials and portfolio to create a customer base. Think about people you know who are getting married soon, and consider offering your services to them. It may also be helpful to ask people in your network to share your website with their customers. For example, if you have wedding planners in your network, they may post examples of your work on social media with your contact information, helping you receive referrals.
Read more: How To Grow Your Customer Base
Salary and job outlook of wedding photographers
Your salary as a wedding photographer may depend on several factors, including your level of work experience and client base. Although Indeed doesn't have specific salary information for wedding photographers, they have information for all photographers, regardless of their specialty. The current national average salary for photographers is $43,457 per year.
While there isn't career outlook information for wedding photographers specifically, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of all photographers to grow 9% from 2021 to 2031. This rate is faster than average for all occupations.
The statistics bureau specifies that the desire for portrait photographs may drive an increase in the employment of photographers. These projections show a demand for people familiar with taking pictures of people, alluding to the continued demand for wedding photographers.
For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.
Wedding photographer skills
Below are some skills that wedding photographers often have:
Communication: Wedding photographers often use their communication skills to relay important instructions to their clients when taking pictures. This allows them to express their ideas for a photo and achieve the desired results.
Active listening: Active listening skills help wedding photographers give their full attention to their clients. They rely on these skills to understand a couple's requirements for their wedding pictures.
Time management: Because wedding photographers often adhere to a strict schedule, they may rely on their time management skills to help them stay organized. This skill allows them to plan and prioritize tasks to fulfill their client's wishes.
Organization: A wedding photographer may work with several clients within similar time frames, so it's often beneficial for them to have superior organizational skills. This allows them to keep track of the individual needs of their clients and any upcoming wedding dates.
Creativity: Wedding photographers often rely on their creativity to generate new ideas for pictures and develop unique photography strategies. This helps them work with clients who want less traditional wedding photos and create stories through images for customers.
Physical stamina: A wedding photographer may rely on their physical stamina to complete their professional responsibilities. This career often requires working long hours and physical activity to photograph wedding days.
Collaboration: Wedding photographs may work together with wedding planners to coordinate their efforts. Collaboration and teamwork help everyone work well together to satisfy the couple and follow all plans.
Attention to detail: A wedding photographer's attention to detail helps them coordinate each photo aspect while considering elements like composition, exposure and lighting. This helps them ensure they catch any details of a photo shoot that may be out of place.
Adaptability: Wedding photographers work in many settings, and, despite all best efforts to plan, unpredictable events may happen. Adaptability is crucial for them to be able to respond to any changes, such as unexpected weather or challenging people in the wedding party.
Tips for becoming a wedding photographer
Consider these tips to help you become a wedding photographer:
Attend events in the wedding industry
The wedding industry hosts a variety of events to help engaged couples find vendors, and these can be valuable networking opportunities. Try to attend bridal shows and wedding expos in your area or surrounding areas where you're willing to work. If possible, invest in a booth or table where you can print and showcase examples of your work, and keep business cards with you to distribute to potential customers.
Think about promotions
Attracting customers is just as important as capturing images as a wedding photographer. While your options may vary based on your finances and experience, it may be worthwhile to offer promotions, discounts or exclusive sales packages to your customers. For example, as you're starting out, consider offering a flat discount on all services, or, if you're more experienced, think about offering a discount on wedding photography for couples who hire you for their engagement photos.
Develop a personal style
As couples often have many choices for photographers, it's important to develop your personal style or aesthetic. This creates a unique selling proposition that other photographers can't offer them. For example, perhaps you have a certain approach for taking detail shots for the couple, or you use a specific style of editing to create a particular kind of final product.
Ask for testimonials
Word-of-mouth is powerful in marketing, and people typically value the opinions of their peers. While your portfolio may help a potential client decide if they like your work, they likely want to know what it's like to work with you and what to expect on their wedding day. Ask your previous customers to provide reviews about their experiences, and include these on your website and social media accounts.
Remember the business aspects
While you may choose to work for a different company, many wedding photographers are self-employed and own their own businesses. It's important to follow the necessary protocols for establishing your business, such as getting the appropriate license and determining your prices.
It may be helpful to speak with a lawyer and other photographers you know who own their own businesses to ensure you complete everything, especially when writing about how clients are legally able to use and print the photographs they buy from you.
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